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East City Precinct Buitenkant and Harrington Streets, two parallel roads on the outskirts of East City Precinct (formerly known as District 6), are lined with coffee shops, design studios and tattoo parlours, and are on the vanguard of the area’s regeneration. They’re also home to three of the city’s best foodie experiences.

A fixture on Cape Town bucket lists, Truth Coffee is located in a former furniture factory on Buitenkant Street. This coffee shop is a spectacle in itself, doubling as a temple to steampunk, crammed with ostentatious gear-and-cog flourishes.

“The whole area is popping off,” James, a waiter here, says. “In the past year or so loads of new places have opened. You can walk around here at night quite safely and there’s just a great vibe in the air.

” Across the street, Swan Cafe is a newer addition to the neighbourhood. It’s a gleaming incarnation of a Parisian creperie, serving featherlight galettes (traditional French flat cakes) and beetroot lattes in an interior designer’s dream — tungsten bulbs hang from the ceiling in burnished copper bird cages and the counter is scalloped with tiles in many shades of blue.

We eat dinner at Belly of the Beast, a new restaurant owned and run by chefs Neil Swart and Anouchka Horn. Every day, they create fresh menus of stripped-down haute cuisine, with an emphasis on sustainable, seasonal local ingredients. No more than 20 people are served in this minimalist space with black walls, brown wood and raw brick.

This kind of elevated gastronomy is light years away from what would have been served in District Six homes, like my grandparents’, a few decades ago. This multicultural slum fell foul of the government’s Group Areas Act in the 1970s; houses were bulldozed and the area was decreed suitable for white people only.

District Six Museum is the place to learn more of this, housed in a former Methodist church across the street from Truth Coffee. The guide, Abubaker Brown, is standing in the vestibule surrounded by sunburnt tourists, having already started his tour.

The museum features old street signs, government declarations and actual rubble from the demolitions. The floor is covered in an illustrated map of the district with handwritten notes from former inhabitants indicating where their homes used to be. There’s even a recreation of what a home of that time would have looked like, down to a poignant pile of kids’ toys in the corner.

It’s a stirring, powerful experience that underlines the chequered history of the area.

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